As a result, officials from the MMO visited the EC on 12 March 2015 to put forward a series of proposals to address the Commission’s concerns. These were accepted by the EC and the MMO is now enacting them. As such, the MMO has committed to improving the data held on landings by under 10m vessels through a programme of work comprising three principal elements:
- Stage 1 - a statistical and data collection exercise to identify gaps in data coverage and the accuracy of existing data for the under 10m fleet;
- Stage 2 - an enhanced targeted programme of catch checking/weighing at the point of landing, first sale or take-over of the catch.
- Stage 3 - evaluation of the findings in a) and b) above with a view to determining in consultation with industry what further measures may be required.
The MMO has contracted CEFAS to carry out stage 1 of this work. CEFAS scientists have already started working with fishermen at ports around England to collect data on vessel landings, with particular emphasis on ports considered to be at greater risk of having gaps in data and from the most sensitive fisheries for sole and cod. Where possible, this information will be combined with pre-existing CEFAS observer data from a number fishing trips conducted across England.
When CEFAS complete their sampling work with industry, they will provide the MMO with data that is anonymised and aggregated. The MMO will not receive any data on individual vessels from CEFAS. The purpose of this work is to try to understand if there are shortfalls in existing data and assess the accuracy of the data we currently receive for the under 10m fleet. This work will take place over coming months with a view to reporting its findings in March 2016. It will provide the MMO with an independent and scientifically robust assessment.
The MMO has already explained the purpose of this sampling project to the Fisheries Stakeholder Panel, which includes representation from the National Under Ten Fishermen’s Association (NUTFA). We will use the panel as a communication channel to keep industry representatives fully engaged and informed as the work proceeds. CEFAS will provide their findings to the panel before submitting their final report to the MMO.
The MMO is very grateful to those fishermen who have been assisting CEFAS so far, notably at ports in the South-east of England. Please help us by encouraging other fishermen to do likewise when or if they are approached by CEFAS staff in their ports.